Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Arsenal 1 Newcastle United 0

Newcastle United's Cheick Tiote (second left)  closes down Arsenal's Mesut Ozil
Newcastle United's Cheick Tiote (second left) closes down Arsenal's Mesut Ozil

That’s more like it, Steve.

Now that WAS a good performance.

Steve McClaren’s glowing assessments of Newcastle United performance in the defeats to West Bromwich Albion and Everton left some fans scratching their heads.

But they were better, much better, against the Premier League leaders.

They deserved at least a point.

Newcastle outplayed Arsenal for much of Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium, which was decided by a second-half goal from Laurent Koscielny.

United soaked up an intense spell of early pressure from Arsene Wenger’s side before taking the game to their hosts.

The thing is, the performance still had one thing missing – a goal.

And goalscoring will ultimately determine the club’s fate this season.

The team had also lost its two previous games by the same scoreline, and if Newcastle, 18th in the Premier League and two points adrift of safety, don’t start scoring soon, they are going down.

The hardest thing to do in the division is score goals – that’s why strikers cost so much.

And that’s why Queens Park Rangers’ Charlie Austin, available for £15million last summer, might not have been such a bad deal.

The club spent more than £50million on the squad last summer, but it would have taken another £50million to truly make up for years of under-investment.

Former manager Alan Pardew had spelled out the need for a striker before his departure for Crystal Palace a year ago.

It was a call that went unheeded.

The club didn’t spend a penny in last year’s January transfer window, and went on to struggle in front of goal for the rest of the season.

United just don’t have enough goals in the team, and the injury that will keep Papiss Cisse out for up to three months has compounded an already-worrying situation.

McClaren’s side have scored 19 goals in 20 games, and SIX of those goals came in one match.

So Newcastle are averaging significantly less one goal per game if the 6-2 victory over Norwich City is disregarded.

And the numbers simply don’t add up.

The latest chances fell to Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum.

Wijnaldum had three chances – all stopped by Petr Cech – and Mitrovic somehow missed from close range in the 50th minute – the ball bounced off his thigh and over Cech’s goal – after Ayoze Perez knocked a deep cross back across goal to him.

If Arsenal win the league, then Cech will have more than played his part.

Arsenal, surprisingly, had backed off after their early onslaught

United, steadily, grew in confidence. They were given time and space on the ball by a side strangely reluctant or unwilling to press high up the pitch, and they used it well.

McClaren had subtly changed his formation for the game.

Perez was switched to the left, and the forward was dyanamic and dangerous on the flank.

Mitrovic, playing as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, held the ball up well at times, while Wijnaldum, in his favoured No 10 role, troubled Arsenal with his pace and movement.

Arsenal, however, slowly got themselves back in the game after the hour-mark.

And the 2,000 United fans at the Emirates Stadium feared the worst as they finally found some rhythm going forward.

Their breakthrough came in the 72nd minute when a corner was headed down by Olivier Giroud.

Koscielny poked the loose ball past goalkeeper Rob Elliot, who had recovered from the bout of sickness which had seen him miss the West Bromwich Albion game a week ago in time to play in the match.

Elliot, presumably, felt sick at the final whistle, but not because of his stomach.

Newcastle had played well enough to take at least a point from a team which could well lift the title this season.

It was also sickener for his team-mates and the club’s travelling fans.

They’d seen it all before.

Many of them will have been in the away end at Villa Park when the club last lost its Premier League status in 2009.

The team can take heart from their performance at the Emirates Stadium.

Wenger praised United’s “technical ability, but the ability to put the ball in the net is what Newcastle need above all else.

United need points, not plaudits, right now.

Time is fast running out for Newcastle, who now have a break from the league.

After the game, McClaren talked of the “tireless” work going on behind the scenes at the club when asked about this month’s window.

The club really needs a striker in before it takes on Manchester United at St James’s Park on January 12.

And really, it needs a striker with Premier League experience. Every signing is a gamble of sorts, but Newcastle need someone ready to hit the ground running.

The stakes are high, and the next few weeks – on and off the pitch – will have a huge bearing on the club’s campaign.

United are creating chances, they just need someone to take them.

And those kind of players don’t come cheap.